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The historical character

King Arthur
Statue of King Arthur, Hofkirche, Innsbruck, designed by
Albrecht Drer and cast by Peter Vischer the Elder, !"#s
King Arthur of Britain, by
Ho$ard Pyle fro% The Story of
King Arthur and His Knights&
'(#)*
King Arthur is a legendary
+ritish leader of the late !th and
early ,th centuries, $ho, according to %edie-al histories and
ro%ances, led the defence of +ritain against Sa.on in-aders
in the early ,th century& The details of Arthur/s story are
%ainly co%0osed of folklore and literary in-ention, and his
historical e.istence is debated and dis0uted by %odern historians& The s0arse historical
background of Arthur is gleaned fro% -arious sources, including the Annales Cambriae,
the Historia Brittonum, and the $ritings of 1ildas& Arthur/s na%e also occurs in early
0oetic sources such as Y Gododdin&
The legendary Arthur de-elo0ed as a figure of international interest largely through the
0o0ularity of 1eoffrey of 2on%outh/s fanciful and i%aginati-e "th3century Historia
Regum Britanniae 'History of the Kings of Britain*& So%e 4elsh and +reton tales and
0oe%s relating the story of Arthur date fro% earlier than this $ork5 in these $orks, Arthur
a00ears either as a great $arrior defending +ritain fro% hu%an and su0ernatural ene%ies
or as a %agical figure of folklore, so%eti%es associated $ith the 4elsh 6ther$orld,
Ann$n&

Ho$ %uch of 1eoffrey/s Historia 'co%0leted in )7* $as ada0ted fro% such
earlier sources, rather than in-ented by 1eoffrey hi%self, is unkno$n&
Although the the%es, e-ents and characters of the Arthurian legend -aried $idely fro%
te.t to te.t, and there is no one canonical -ersion, 1eoffrey/s -ersion of e-ents often
ser-ed as the starting 0oint for later stories& 1eoffrey de0icted Arthur as a king of +ritain
$ho defeated the Sa.ons and established an e%0ire o-er +ritain, Ireland, Iceland,
8or$ay and 1aul& 2any ele%ents and incidents that are no$ an integral 0art of the
Arthurian story a00ear in 1eoffrey/s Historia, including Arthur/s father 9ther Pendragon,
the $i:ard 2erlin, Arthur/s $ife 1uine-ere, the s$ord E.calibur, Arthur/s conce0tion at
Tintagel, his final battle against 2ordred at ;a%lann and final rest in A-alon& The "th3
century <rench $riter ;hr=tien de Troyes, $ho added >ancelot and the Holy 1rail to the
story, began the genre of Arthurian ro%ance that beca%e a significant strand of %edie-al
literature& In these <rench stories, the narrati-e focus often shifts fro% King Arthur
hi%self to other characters, such as -arious Knights of the ?ound Table& Arthurian
literature thri-ed during the 2iddle Ages but $aned in the centuries that follo$ed until it
e.0erienced a %a@or resurgence in the (th century& In the "st century, the legend li-es
on, not only in literature but also in ada0tations for theatre, fil%, tele-ision, co%ics and
other %edia&
Historical basis for King Arthur
Arthur as one of the 8ine 4orthies, ta0estry, c& )7!
The historical basis for the King Arthur legend has long been
debated by scholars& 6ne school of thought, citing entries in
the Historia Brittonum 'History of the Britons* and Annales
Cambriae 'Welsh Annals*, sees Arthur as a genuine
historical figure, a ?o%ano3+ritish leader $ho fought against
the in-ading Anglo3Sa.ons so%eti%e in the late !th to early
,th century& The Historia Brittonum, a (th3century >atin
historical co%0ilation attributed in so%e late %anuscri0ts to
a 4elsh cleric called 8ennius, contains the first datable
%ention of King Arthur, listing t$el-e battles that Arthur
fought& These cul%inate in the +attle of 2ons +adonicus, or
2ount +adon, $here he is said to ha-e single3handedly
killed (,# %en& ?ecent studies, ho$e-er, Auestion the
reliability of the Historia Brittonum&
The other te.t that see%s to su00ort the case for Arthur/s historical e.istence is the #th3
century Annales Cambriae, $hich also link Arthur $ith the +attle of 2ount +adon& The
Annales date this battle to !,B!7, and also %ention the +attle of ;a%lann, in $hich
Arthur and 2edraut '2ordred* $ere both killed, dated to !)CB!)(& These details ha-e
often been used to bolster confidence in the Historia/s account and to confir% that Arthur
really did fight at 2ount +adon& Proble%s ha-e been identified, ho$e-er, $ith using this
source to su00ort the Historia Brittonum's account& The latest research sho$s that the
Annales Cambriae $as based on a chronicle begun in the late 7th century in 4ales&
Additionally, the co%0le. te.tual history of the Annales Cambriae 0recludes any
certainty that the Arthurian annals $ere added to it e-en that early& They $ere %ore
likely added at so%e 0oint in the #th century and %ay ne-er ha-e e.isted in any earlier
set of annals& The 2ount +adon entry 0robably deri-ed fro% the Historia Brittonum&
This lack of con-incing early e-idence is the reason %any recent historians e.clude
Arthur fro% their accounts of sub3?o%an +ritain& In the -ie$ of historian Tho%as
;harles3Ed$ards, Dat this stage of the enAuiry, one can only say that there %ay $ell ha-e
been an historical Arthur Ebut &&&F the historian can as yet say nothing of -alue about hi%D&
These %odern ad%issions of ignorance are a relati-ely recent trend5 earlier generations of
historians $ere less sce0tical& Historian Gohn 2orris %ade the 0utati-e reign of Arthur
the organising 0rinci0le of his history of sub3?o%an +ritain and Ireland, The Age of
Arthur '(C)*& E-en so, he found little to say about a historical Arthur&
The #th3century Annales Cambriae, as co0ied into a %anuscri0t of c& ##
Partly in reaction to such theories, another school of thought e%erged $hich argued that
Arthur had no historical e.istence at all& 2orris/s Age of Arthur 0ro%0ted archaeologist
8o$ell 2yres to obser-e that Dno figure on the borderline of history and %ythology has
$asted %ore of the historian/s ti%eD& 1ildas/ ,th3century 0ole%ic De !"idio et
Con#uestu Britanniae '$n the Ruin and Con#uest of Britain*, $ritten $ithin li-ing
%e%ory of 2ount +adon, %entions the battle but does not %ention Arthur& Arthur is not
%entioned in the Anglo%Sa!on Chroni"le or na%ed in any sur-i-ing %anuscri0t $ritten
bet$een H## and 7"#& He is absent fro% +ede/s early37th3century ""lesiasti"al History
of the nglish &eo'le, another %a@or early source for 0ost3?o%an history that %entions
2ount +adon& Historian Da-id Du%-ille has $rittenI DI think $e can dis0ose of hi%
EArthurF Auite briefly& He o$es his 0lace in our history books to a /no s%oke $ithout fire/
school of thought &&& The fact of the %atter is that there is no historical e-idence about
Arthur5 $e %ust re@ect hi% fro% our histories and, abo-e all, fro% the titles of our
books&D
So%e scholars argue that Arthur $as originally a fictional hero of folkloreJor e-en a
half3forgotten ;eltic deityJ$ho beca%e credited $ith real deeds in the distant 0ast&
They cite 0arallels $ith figures such as the Kentish tote%ic horse3gods Hengest and
Horsa, $ho later beca%e historicised& +ede ascribed to these legendary figures a
historical role in the !th3century Anglo3Sa.on conAuest of eastern +ritain& It is not e-en
certain that Arthur $as considered a king in the early te.ts& 8either the Historia nor the
Annales calls hi% Dre!DI the for%er calls hi% instead Ddu! bellorumD 'leader of battles*
and DmilesD 'soldier*&
Historical docu%ents for the 0ost3?o%an 0eriod are scarce, so a definiti-e ans$er to the
Auestion of Arthur/s historical e.istence is unlikely& Sites and 0laces ha-e been identified
as DArthurianD since the "th century, but archaeology can confidently re-eal na%es only
through inscri0tions found in secure conte.ts& The so3called DArthur stoneD, disco-ered in
((7 a%ong the ruins at Tintagel ;astle in ;orn$all in securely dated ,th3century
conte.ts, created a brief stir but 0ro-ed irrele-ant&
E7F
6ther inscri0tional e-idence for
Arthur, including the 1lastonbury cross, is tainted $ith the suggestion of forgery&
Although se-eral historical figures ha-e been 0ro0osed as the basis for Arthur, no
con-incing e-idence for these identifications has e%erged&
The legends of King Arthur ha-e been seen as co%0lete fiction, but there is e-idence to
sho$ that there %ay ha-e been a real +ritish leader called Arthur $ho lead his 0eo0le to
-ictory& Ho$e-er, there is no kno$n ans$er as to $ho the historical Arthur actually $as,
and there are scholars and historians $ho still doubt his e.istence& Da-id Du%-ille said,
(The fa"t is that there is no histori"al e)iden"e about Arthur* +e must re,e"t him from
our histories and* abo)e all* from the titles of our boo-s./
4hat is certain is that Arthur $as not a %edie-al king& The %odern i%ages of knights in
0late ar%our and a grand castle called ;a%elot are not historical at all& 4e kno$ -ery
little, historically s0eaking, but Arthur $as 0robably a !th ;entury $arrior $ho 0rotected
his 0eo0le fro% in-aders for a ti%e&
The legends talk of a s$ord in a stone, $hich could only be dra$n by so%eone truly
$orthy of it& This story see%s too fabulous to be true, but archaeologists belie-e this
could tell us %ore about the ti%es of Arthur& <rancis Prior disco-ered that bron:e s$ords
$ere %ade by 0ouring %olten bron:e into a stone %ould, and later, the s$ord $ould be
dra$n out of the %ould& This rese%bles the Arthurian legends about the s$ord in a stone&
;ountless s$ords ha-e been found at the botto% of lakes, and $ater $as sy%bolic of the
afterlife& 4hen a $arrior died, their s$ord $as 0laced in a lake, %arking the end of a
king& The reco-ery of a s$ord 'ie& s$ord in the stone* %ay ha-e %arked the beginning of
a ne$ king&
+y H#, the +ritons had had nearly H## years of 0ros0erity, benefiting fro% their strong
?o%an go-ern%ent& +ut by the late Hth ;entury, the 0o$er of ?o%e had begun to
$eaken and +ritain $as Auickly in the face of a national threat by an Anglo3Sa.on
in-asion& +ritain $as ne-er to belong to ?o%e again& Ho$e-er, in about the year !##,
+ritain beca%e -ictorious in the battle of +adon, $hich ensured the% 0eace in the land
for !# years after$ards& E.0erts are con-inced that one great king $as res0onsible for
this great defeat, and this %an $as 0robably Arthur&
4ho $on the battle of +adonK In Wales0 A History, 4ynford Vaughan3Tho%as says,
1The great #uestion no+ arises % +ho +on Badon2 Who +as the general +ho led the
Britons to su""ess in the many battles +hi"h* a""ording to 3ennius 're"eded it2 The
Ambrosius Aurelianus mentioned by Gildas is the ob)ious "andidate* but if he +as a
"ontem'orary of 4ortigen* the dates rule him out. At this 'oint* a figure ste's out of the
shado+s* a mysterious and 'o+erful 'ersonality "arrying a s'e"ial aura of high roman"e
but also a troublesome ghost +hom serious historians ha)e long stri)en to e!or"ise but
+ho 'ersists in returning to haunt the Dar- Ages. We ha)e "ome to King Arthur51
In (, there occurred at 1lastonbury the e.hu%ation of Arthur& 1lastonbury is the
0lace Arthur is said to ha-e been taken $hen he $as dying& A cross $as found at ArthurLs
to%b, and on it $as inscribed $ords, translating toI HE?E >IES THE <A269S KI81
A?TH9?, 4ITH 19I8EVE?E HIS SE;68D 4I<E, +9?IED I8 THE IS>E 6<
AVA>68&
It is kno$n that in the #th ;entury, a bisho0 raised the le-el of the ce%etery and
enclosed it $ith a $all& Therefore, it is 0ossible that the gra-e of Arthur $as disco-ered
during the 0rocess of this $ork& In (,", archaeologists e.ca-ated the area $here
ArthurLs gra-e $as said to be located, and found e-idence of a 0it fro% $hich a to%b
could ha-e been re%o-ed at so%e ti%e bet$een 7# and (& This e-idence is 0roof
that the %onks of 1lastonbury did e.hu%e so%ebodyLs gra-e in (, but $as it the
gra-e of ArthurK
In ((7, clues of an earlier castle $ere found in Tintagel, $ith inscri0tions in !th ;entury
>atin& <e$ 0eo0le could $rite, so historians first belie-ed Tintagel $as a %onastery, until
broken 0ieces of 0ottery $ere found outside the $alls& This sho$s that so%eone
i%0ortant or $ealthy %ust ha-e li-ed there& >ater, e.ca-ations unco-ered the e.istence of
a !th ;entury harbour and a %oat& Tintagel %ust ha-e been a royal castle, belonging to a
king& This king %ay or %ay not ha-e been Arthur&
The legends also talk of knights at a round table& There %ay not ha-e been an actual
round table, but e-idence has been found at ;adbury Hill to sho$ that a large Dark Age
ti%ber hall e.isted, and it $as big enough to hold %any knights& +roken 0ottery $ine @ars
$ere found in that area, therefore, the %ain acti-ity in the hall $as %en grou0ed together
drinking&
To conclude, there is still -ery little kno$n about the historical King Arthur& <ro% the
e-idence $e ha-e, I belie-e there $as one great king $ho lead +ritain to -ictory in %any
battles, but this king %ay not ha-e been na%ed Arthur& All $e kno$ is that if King
Arthur really e.isted, he 0robably $ould ha-e li-ed in a castle called Tintagel, and fought
in the battle of +adon, bringing his 0eo0le to a great -ictory& +ut $hether or not Arthur
e-en e.isted $ill 0robably re%ain a %ystery to us&
Arthur and 2erlin
The story of King Arthur $ould be nothing if it did not ha-e the sorcerer 2erlin&
+eing an e.tre%ely influential character throughout ArthurLs life, 2erlin $as also around
before Arthur $as born& Arthur $as brought to Sir Ector by 2erlin to be raised as a
nor%al boy, but fate had %uch bigger 0lans for future king& 2erlin ser-ed as ArthurLs
ad-isor and relied on hi% for hel0 in dire situations along Auests& Arthur turned to 2erlin
for ad-ice before battles and tough situations& This led King Arthur to acAuire the
legendary s$ord E.calibur& 4ith hel0 fro% 2erlin King Arthur $as able to slay %any
beasts and kings throughout England& >ang gi-es the reader a direct %essage that Arthur
relies on 2erlin in the AuoteI DMArthur had %any battles to fight and %any Kings to
conAuer before he $as ackno$ledged lord of the% all, and often he $ould ha-e failed
had he not listened to the $isdo% of 2erlin&&&D
The round table
Through out Arthurian legend, the ?ound Table has sy%boli:ed Arthur/s drea% for
eAuality and continuous brotherhood of his 0eo0le in the uto0ia of ;a%elot& The s0here
sha0e of the historical round table re0resents $hat Arthur $as trying to acco%0lish for
the 0eo0le that sa$ his as an al%ost ;hrist like figure thought his reign& Arthur/s city $as
built around the round table, and $as seen as an e.a%0le of ho$ to li-e& He sa$ this as
0erfection& The thirteen knights that sat around it $ere only the %ost chi-alrous of all
knights and $ere a 0erfect role %odel of $hat the Arthur $as tiring to re0resent $ith the
?ound Table& In turn, this 0erfect society $as established around the ideals of a table&
The origin of the ?ound table can be dated back to !!, $here the first reference to the
round table $as $ritten& ?obert 4ace translated it fro% >atin to <rench& '1eoffrey ")*
The ?ound Table $as originally o$ned by King 9ther, Arthur/s father, and ke0t in his
0rinci0le city of ;ardoell ';a%elot Pro@ect *& >ittle is kno$n of the $hereabouts of the
round table after that until 9ther/s son Arthur, no$ king of England, $edded >ady
1$eni-iere& D4hen Arthur %arried 1$ene-iere, her father 0resented hi% $ith a round
table that had once belonged to 9therD '1eoffrey )"*& It is not kno$n if Arthur had 0lans
for the table at this ti%e, but it 0lays a big 0art in his legendary status&
It is dis0uted ho$ %any 0eo0le the round table has seated throughout the years it $as
utili:ed& The %a@ority of sources agree on !#, as in 2allory/s story& 4hen Arthur
established the city of ;a%elot, that $as thought of as a 0erfect society, and the round
table $as a 0art of this 0erfect society& The king/s court $as called the Knights of the
?ound Table, and they $ere considered the %ost brace and chi-alrous of all the knights&
They sat around the round table, none abo-e or belo$ each other, all in a continuous ring
of brotherhood& The na%es of all the knights $ere 0ainted in gold 0aint at each ones
designated s0ots, all s0ots $ere eAual in s0ace e-er Arthur/s& All seats at the table $ere
filled e.ce0t one, Siege Perilous, $hich $as set aside %y 2erlin 'Arthur/s %entor* for a
knight not to be born till a later ti%e& To ensure the reser-ation of the 0redestined seat,
2erlin stated, D Anyone else atte%0ting to sit in this seat $ill suffer dire conseAuencesD
';a%elot 0ro@ect *& 2erlin has also arranged that this knight $ho $ould fill Siege
Perilous $ould also sit at the table of Gose0h of Ar%ithea& This knight turned out to be
one of the %ost fa%ous knights e-er, Sir 1alahad& It $as ob-ious that the s0ot at the
round table belonged to hi% as Dhis na%e a00ears on the seat destined for hi%D ';a%elot
Pro@ect *& All these e-ents contributed to the ?ound Tables legendary status&
6ne thing that historically stands out about the ?ound Table is not the table itself but the
knights that sat around it& These %en sy%boli:ed the 0erfect and closest knit fighting unit
e-er asse%bled in the %iddle Ages and $ere the %ost chi-alrous of all %en& The Knights
of the ?ound Table $ere said to be the reason that Arthur $as able to resist a Sa.on
in-asion of +ritain and e-entually defeat the% ';a-endish ))*& The roster of King
Arthur/s Knights read as fallo$s, Sir Kay, Sir >ucus, Sir +eda-ire, Sir +adoin, Sir
9l0hias, Sir +rastious, Sir Dagonet, Sir Dynaden, Sir 1$ain, Sir >ancelot, King Arthur,
and Siege Perilous $as later filled by 1alahad '2allory !"*& Sir Kay $as 0articularly
close to Arthur because he $as the son of Sir Ector, $ho raised Arthur $hen he $as
young '1eoffrey ))*& These Knights $ere highly res0ected in their ti%e because they
carried the %essage of eAuality for Arthur&
In %any $ays Arthur/s life and ad-entures influenced the ?ound Table, as it is @ust one of
the threads in the fabric of his legacy& 6ne %an that has a great deal to do $ith Arthur/s
life and the for%ation of the ?ound Table is 2erlin& 2erlin is a 0ro0het and a sorcerer,
$ho is said to be the son of the de-il hi%self ';a-endish ))*& During King 9ther/s reign
as king of England, he $as at $ar $ith the Duke of ;orn$all& During there negotiations
he beca%e acAuainted $ith the Duke/s $ife and fell in lo-e $ith her& 2erlin at this 0oint
ca%e to King 9ther and 0resented hi% $ith an offer to hel0 hi% in any$ay he could,
kno$ing e.actly $hat 9ther $anted& 6f course 9ther reAuested one night $ith the >ady
of ;orn$all, and 2erlin grated the reAuest by changing his a00earance to %ake hi% look
identical to the Duke& 9ther then $ent to the Nueen that night and Arthur $as concei-ed&
>ater on in the e-ening a %essenger
1eneral %otifs in arthurian legends
The nu%ber three is a recurring %otif on King Arthurs %any stories& Sir 1areth
encounters the three brothers on his Auest $ith the >ady >inet& He %eets a knight in black
ar%or, a knight in green ar%or, and a knight in red ar%or, all of $hich Sir 1areth slay&
Another e.a%0le in $hich the nu%ber three is seen is $hen Arthur asks Sir +edi-ere to
thro$ E.calibur back into the lake& Arthur recei-ed E.caliber fro% the >ady of the >ake
$hile he $as $ith 2erlin, but to$ards the end of the story he no longer $ants it& In the
first of three instances, Sir +edi-ere hides the s$ord and 0lans on retrie-ing it later for
his self but Arthur beco%es sus0icious $hen Sir +edi-ere re0lies $ith nothing after King
Arthur asks $hat ha00ened& 6n the second of three instances, Arthur then sends Sir
+edi-ere back to dis0ose of E.caliber but he returns $ith the sa%e story that nothing
ha00ened& Arthur then threatens Sir +edi-eres/s life and sends hi% for the third ti%e and
$hen he returns he e.0lains that a hand rose fro% the $ater and caught the s$ord as he
thre$ it in&
;haracters in ?o%ance literature usually ha-e -isions or drea%s that lead the% or
gi-e the% infor%ation rele-ant to their Auest throughout the story& In the story of OThe
Nuesting +eastP King Arthur has a strange drea% $here Dhe thought the land $as o-er3
run $ith gry0hons and ser0ents $hich burnt and sle$ his 0eo0le, and he %ade $ar on the
%onsters, and $as sorely $ounded, though he still killed the% all&D Arthurs drea% ca%e
true $hen later in that sa%e story Arthur and his knights encounter a strange beast that is
a co%bination of a ser0ent and gry0hon& Another e.a%0le is $hen a sAuire has a drea%
that a king $ent on a 0ilgri%age and his sAuire $as slain& The sAuire had a drea% that he
found a gold candle and $as stabbed& 4hen the sAuire $oke u0, he shouted for hel0
because he had actually been stabbed and he $as holding a gold candle&
2agicalQsu0ernatural e-ents occur often in the book King Arthur0 Tales from the
Round Table. 6ne e.a%0le is $hen King Arthur and all of his are at the round table
during the story of OThe ;o%ing of the Holy 1raal&P En@oying a Pentecost su00er, the
knights at the round table suddenly heard a clash of thunder and then a bright light shone
into the roo%& E-eryone ga:ed at each other du%bfounded, then the Holy 1raal floated
into the roo% and food a00eared before the% all as if by %agic& Sir 1a$aine along $ith
se-eral other nights $as astonished at $hat they sa$, so they de-oted the%sel-es to
search for the 1raal&
In the story of OThe End of it All,P King Arthur is betrayed by his ne0he$ Sir
2ordred& Arthur entrusted Sir 2ordred to go-ern the land $hile he $as gone fro%
England to fight Sir >ancelot& Sir 2ordred acce0ted the res0onsibility but his intents of
$hat to do $ith ArthurLs kingdo% $ere e-il& Sir 2ordred betrayed King Arthur trust by
sending letters announcing Arthur had died in battle and Sir 2ordred $as no$ cro$ned
king& Sir 2ordred also betrayed Nueen 1uene-ere forcing her to %arry hi% e-en $hen
he that her husband King Arthur $as still ali-e& King Arthur then retured only to be
denied landing by Sir 2ordred and faced a great resistance forcing Arthur to retreat& Sir
2ordred also betrayed Arthur by turning his o$n 0eo0le against hi%& King Arthur
e-entually killed Sir 2ordred but at a great costI only three of Arthurs Knights sur-i-ed
the battles&
A test of honor confir%s a heroLs %orals and $hat they belie-e to be is right and
also his or her 0ledges& In the story of O4hat +eau%ains Asked 6f The KingP,
+eau%ains, kno$n as Sir 1areth, is tested of honor $hen >ady >inet asks King Arthur to
recruit knights to hel0 rescue her sister& Seeing this as an o00ortunity to 0ro-e hi%self to
e-eryone, Sir 1areth asks Arthur to let hi% go on >inetLs Auest& Arthur co%0lies $ith Sir
1arethLs reAuest but only to %ake >inet furious because Sir 1areth is a kitchen boy& Sir
1areth encounters %any knights that he %ust defeat in order to kee0 his 0ro%ise and
fulfill his test of honor& After slaying the knights, >ady >inet reali:es that Sir 1areth is an
honorable %an and $ill kee0 a 0ro%ise to a total stranger& Sir 1areth fulfills his 0ro%ise
in the end of the story by conAuering the ?ed Knight and rescues >ady >yonesse&
King Arthur is the ideal e.a%0le of a nearly 0erfect yet fla$ed hero& Throughout
the stories, King Arthur 0ro-es to be a 0o$erful, fair, and o0enhanded ruler& King Arthur
hardly e-er co%%its a %istake and has the res0ect of al%ost all of his fello$ knights&
Although Arthur %ay see% like the 0erfect hero, there is one thing about hi% that could
be called a fla$I he is too reliant on the 0eo0le around hi%& The do$nfall of King Arthur
$as the fact that he 0ut too %uch trust into the 0eo0le close to hi%& A 0ri%e e.a%0le of
this is $hen King Arthur left Sir 2ordred the 0osition of King& Sir 2ordred betrayed
King Arthur $hich led to -icious battles $ith %any casualties&
The story of King Arthur $ould be nothing $ithout his %any Auests he and his
fello$ knights undertake& Although King Arthur0 Tales 6rom the Round Table is a
collection of %any fa%ous stories about King Arthur and his co%0anions, the %ost
fa%ous is the Auest for the Holy 1raal& Kno$n by %any, the story of the Auest for the
Holy 1raal has been 0assed on for hundreds of years& 8ot only does the book tell the
Auest of the Holy 1raal, but it also tells fa%ous stories such as OThe Dra$ing of the
S$ordP, OThe S$ord E.caliburP, OThe Passing of 2erlinP, OHo$ 2organ >e <ay tried to
kill King ArthurP, O>ancelot and 1uine-ereP, and %ay %ore&
King Arthur and Nueen 1uine-ere
1uine-ere/s origins see% fir%ly 4elsh& The na%e 1uine-ere %ay be directly fro% the
4elsh /1$ynh$yfer/, or fro% /1$enh$y/ '1$en the 1reat* in contrast to /1$enh$y3
-ach/ '1$en the >esser*& A ;eltic Aueen $as eAual in status to her husband and $as able
to conduct affairs unhindered& Nueen 1uine-ere/s in-ol-e%ent $ith other %en, $illingly
or other$ise, is a recurring the%e throughout Arthurian legend& Although the early
circu%stances of her character %ay ha-e defined her 0ersona fro% the beginning, the
later 2edie-al $riters, $ith their ;hristian3based social 0erce0tions, $ould ha-e found it
hard to treat 1uine-ere as anything other than a %orally dubious, unfaithful $o%an&
Significantly 0erha0s, 1uine-ere stays childless, and lo-es a %an $ith $hich she
can ne-er bear children because of the circu%stances of her husband& To this e.tent, her
life is tragic, but she also re0resents an ideal 3 that of courtly ro%ance& 6b-iously too, she
re%ains both desirable and $ell30rotected 'so%eti%es too $ell* by the %ale of the
s0ecies, and a-oids e.ecution at the stake se-eral ti%es
1uine-ere/s adbuction by %en is a recurring the%e throughout Arthurian legend, and
$hen kidna00ed, she %ust be sa-ed 3 the e0ito%e of the da%sel in distress, though ne-er
is she at serious risk of har%&
In The >ife of 1ildas by ;aradoc of >lancarfan 'c&)#3!#* the Aueen '1$enh$yfar*
$as abducted to 1lastonia by the $icked King 2el$as of So%erset '0ossibly an early
%anifestation of 2=l=agant*, and Arthur 3 then de0icted as a tyrant and acco%0anied by a
Dcountless %ultitudeD on account of his $ife being -iolated and carried off 3 searched for
the Aueen throughout the course of a $hole year, and at last heard that she re%ained there
'in 1lastonia*& He roused the ar%ies of the $hole of ;ornubia and Dibneria, but the
Abbot of 1lastonia, attended by the clergy and 1ildas the 4ise, ste00ed in bet$een the
contending ar%ies and ad-ised King 2el-as to restore the ra-ished lady& Accordingly,
she $as restored Din 0eace and good $illD&
1eoffrey of 2on%outh/s -ersion of 1uine-ere/s abduction casts 2ordred, Arthur/s
ne0he$, as the -illain& Arthur left her his care $hilst he $ent to Euro0e to ca%0aign
against the 'fictitious* Procurator of ?o%e, >ucius Hiberius& In the King/s absence
2ordred seduced 1uine-ere, declared hi%self king, and took her as his o$n Aueen,
forcing Arthur to return to +ritain and fight 2ordred at the +attle of ;a%lann&
;hr=tien de Troyes in >e ;he-alier de la ;harrette has 0oor 1uine-ere abducted by the
e-il 2=l=agant 'the son of King +agde%agus* and this ti%e it $as Sir >ancelot $ho
ca%e to her rescue, in a cart dri-en by a d$arf, then cra$ling across a bridge $hose
u00er edge $as a shar0 s$ord3blade& During the ensuing co%bat bet$een >ancelot and
2=l=agant, 1uine-ere, at King +agde%agus/s 0leading, $as able to sto0 the fight but
>ancelot defended her honour again later $hen 2=l=agant '%istakenly* accused her of an
affair $ith Sir Kay 3 he thought that bloodstains on the lo-e3bed $ere Kay/s $hen in fact
it $as >ancelot/s blood 'fro% an in@ury he sustained forcing the $indo$ bars a0art to
cli%b into 1uine-ere/s bedroo%*&
Guinevere's abduction by Meliagrance in Le Morte d'Arthur
In >e 2orte d/Arthur '+ook (* Nueen 1uine-ere ha00ened to go a32aying in the $oods
behind 4est%inster, $ith her usual retinue of ladies3in3$aiting and 0age3boys, 0lus ten
of the Nueen/s Knights 'arrayed in green*& Sir 2eliagrance '2=l=agant*, ins0ired by
%any long years of lust 3 and a$are of >ancelot/s absence fro% the 0arty, attacked $ith
,# %en3at3ar%s& To a-oid her noble knights being killed, 1uine-ere surrendered herself
to 2eliagrance, then secretly dis0atched a young %essenger to bear her ring to
4est%inster $ith a 0lea that her lo-er co%e to her rescue&
>ancelot rushed to her aid on his horse, but the ani%al $as disabled en route by archers
so he hi@acked a chariot and $as soon at the gates of the kidna00er/s castle, at $hich 0oint
2eliagrance i%%ediately surrendered& 1uine-ere and the Nueen/s Knights $ere sa-ed
and Sir >ancelot beca%e kno$n as />e ;he-alier du ;hariot/&
As in ;hr=tien de Troyes, >ancelot that night cli%bed into 1uine-ere/s bedroo% by
forcing the $indo$ bars and in@uring his hand in the 0rocess 'also in the bedroo%,
incidentally, $ere the Nueen/s Knights still reco-ering fro% their $ounds and
0resu%ably still dressed in 2ay3green*& 2alory continuesI DSir >auncelot $ent unto bed
$ith the Aueen, and he took no force of his hurt hand, but took his 0leasance and his
liking until it $as in the da$ning of the day &&& and $hen he sa$ his ti%e that he %ight
tarry no longer he took his lea-e and de0arted at the $indo$, and 0ut it together as $ell
as he %ight again&D E one i%agines 2alory $as a$are of his o$n @oke F
In the %orning 2eliagrance sa$ the blood and clai%ed Nueen 1uine-ere had been
dishonoured by one of her $ounded knights& >ancelot ans$ered for the Nueen, denying
the charge but not ad%itting the blood $as his& 2eliagrance thre$ the gauntlet, >ancelot
acce0ted, and the duel $as set for eight days later at 4est%inster& +ut 2eliagrance
tricked >ancelot into falling ten fatho%s through a tra0 door do$n into a ca-e, then %ade
it look as if >auncelot had gone off ad-enturing& Sir >a-aine ste00ed in to re0resent hi%
but >ancelot $as able to esca0e, and at the last %o%ent a00eared at the duel, and $ith
one ar% tied behind his back 'and shieldless* he cut 2eliagrance/s head in t$o&
Guinevere's final abduction, by Mordred
Technically, this $asn/t an abduction& In >e 2orte d/Arthur +ook " 2ordred,
both son and ne0he$ of King Arthur, $as ruler of all England, ha-ing been left in charge
$hilst Arthur had gone to <rance to $age $ar $ith the no$ treacherous Sir >ancelot&
After clai%ing the King had died at >ancelot/s hands he %ade hi%self king and tried to
%arry Nueen 1uine-ere 'his father/s $ife*& 1uine-ere beguiled 2ordred into letting her
go to >ondon, ostensibly to buy Dall %anner of things that longed unto the $eddingD but
she locked herself and her entourage a$ay in a $ell3stocked To$er of >ondon& 2ordred
laid seige on the Nueen and by fair %eans or foul tried to 0ersuade her to co%e out, but
she stayed 0ut and e-entually he de0arted $ith his ar%y to Do-er to re0el a returning
King Arthur&
The e-il character in arthurian literature
2organ >e <ay is a 0ri%e e.a%0le of the e-il ene%y& Arthur/s sister, 2organ >e
<ay, disliked her brother and had a strong skill in %agic $hich caused trouble for Arthur&
>ater in the story 2organ >e <ay steals ArthurLs scabbard $hile he $as resting& Arthur
0ursued her but she tossed the scabbard into a lake and esca0ed after$ards& The ne.t
%orning 2organ >e <ay sent Arthur a %antle that $as decked in @e$els in ho0e the he
$ould forgi-e her but Arthur $as sus0icious& The >ady of the >ake a00eared to hi% and
$arned hi% to let the %essenger 0ut it on first& She fell do$n and burned to ashes
instantly and King Arthur $as outraged& 2organ >e <ay had beco%e Arthur/s e-il ene%y
because she let her hate control her actions&
An archety0al fe%ale figure in the book is The <air 2aid 6f Astolat& The <air
2aid is the daughter of Sir +ernard, the +aron that hel0ed Sir >ancelot to 0re0are for the
tourney& The <air 2aid falls into the category of an archety0al fe%ale figure because she
is @ust an innocent %aiden $ho falls in lo-e $ith Sir >ancelot& Instantly falling in lo-e
$ith Sir >ancelot, the <air 2aid asks hi% to $ear her token to the tourney& Ho0ing the
token $ill disguise hi%, >ancelot acce0ts& The <air 2aid later asks Sir >ancelot if he
$ould be her husband but he declines& +ecause the <air 2aid $as naR-e and illogical
fro% her heartache, she killed herself because she s$ore to herself she $ould ne-er lo-e
anybody but Sir >ancelot&
Arthur and his knights3 %oral guidelines
Arthur $as not afraid to 0ut his cro$n aside to fight for $hat is righteous& Arthur also
for%s the legendary ?ound Table and has all of the knights $ho sit at it to take an oath to
al$ays hel0 others, and al$ays sho$ courtesy, %ercy, and @ustice& Arthur also later on
beca%e kno$n as the D;hristian KingD and ;hristianity beca%e a -ery i%0ortant $ay of
life for %any of the knights& Arthur/s life $ould not stay 0erfect after all of these deeds,
ho$e-er& 6ne of the first %isfortunes of Arthur/s life $as the incestial relationshi0
bet$een hi%self and his half3sister, 2orgause& Arthur at the ti%e did not kno$ $ho
2orgause $as and at the ti%e he $as un%arried& 2orgause $as -ery attracti-e and as a
result, Arthur seduced her thus concei-ing 2ordred, his son and ne%esis $ho $ould
e-entually bring the do$nfall of Arthur/s kingdo%& As a result, Arthur 0assed a Herod
like degree to assure 2ordred/s death& 2ordred esca0ed and sur-i-ed, ho$e-er and
$ould return one day to ;a%elot to beco%e a knight of the ?ound Table and bring
Arthur/s e-entual doo%& Another tragedy in Arthur/s life $as the loss of his friend and
ad-isor, 2erlin $hen 2erlin left ;a%elot fore-er for his fatal lo-e for the fairy Vi-iane&
This $as -ery hard for Arthur since 2erlin had al$ays guided hi% and brought hi% to
$here he $as& Soon it $as ti%e for Arthur to %arry& He disobeyed 2erlin/s $arning, and
took the fair 1uini-ere, daughter of King >eodagrance of ;a%iliard to be his $ife&
Arthur lo-ed 1uini-ere dearly and she $as -ery s0ecial to hi%& Arthur/s ?ound Table
attracted knights fro% all o-er including the greatest knight in the $orld, Sir >auncelot of
the >ake& There beca%e a -ery close relationshi0 bet$een Arthur and >auncelot and the
t$o regarded each other as best friends& >ife $ould not al$ays re%ain so si%0le as
>auncelot and 1uini-ere felt a dee0, unsto00able lo-e for each other that $ould not die&
The t$o had to hide their lo-e fro% Arthur and this hurt the% both terribly because they
both lo-ed Arthur -ery %uch& It is -ery sad to see ho$ ha00y Arthur $as in those years
and ho$ he felt for >auncelot and 1uini-ere and yet did not kno$ of their betraying lo-e&
Soon Arthur gre$ older and knights such as 1a$aine, 1areth, >a%orak, and Tristan
ca%e to the ?ound Table& The focus of the story gradually shifts fro% Arthur to different
stories of his knights& The i%age of Arthur is transfor%ed fro% the younger, heroic king
to the older, dignified king $ho e-eryone honored and adored& 4hen Arthur $as young it
$as Auite 0ossible that he $as the greatest knight in the $orld but $hen knights such as
>auncelot and Tristan entered his co%0any, this $as seen to certainly not be true& E-en
though he $as a bit older, Arthur ne-er sto00ed @ousting and $hen an ene%y $ould
attack, Arthur $ould al$ays be on the battlefield $ith his knights& After a$hile instead of
being the rescuer, Arthur %any ti%es took the role of the rescued as different knights
hel0ed sa-e Arthur fro% different ene%ies& Arthur took great 0ride in his great kingdo%
and his noble knights& So generous $as Arthur, that he $ould grant al%ost any boon to
those that ca%e to his kingdo% and asked for one&
As the years $ent by, %ore and %ore knights ca%e to the ?ound Table until finally, Sir
1alahad, >auncelot/s son ca%e to the ?ound Table and too the seat of the Siege Perlious&
This $as one of Arthur/s greatest %o%ents to see all !# seats of the ?ound Table filled&
9nfortunately, this %o%ent $as -ery short li-ed as Sir 1a$aine, Arthur/s ne0he$
declared that he $ould Auest for a year and a day until he had found the Holy 1rail& Soon,
all of the other knights set u0on the sa%e Auest and Arthur and ;a%elot $ere stri00ed of
all their legendary knights& This $as a -ery hard %o%ent for Arthur to see all of his loyal
and belo-ed knights abandon hi% to seek out their destinies& Arthur then kne$ that not all
of the% $ould return and the ?ound Table $ould ne-er return to its for%er state of glory&
Dee0 inside, Arthur 0robably $ished to @oin his knights on their Auest& The ne.t year
Arthur s0ent in loneliness and la%entation for the absence of his knights& As the year
0rogressed, %any of the knights returned, tired and $ary, $ith tales of failure and
des0air& 6ut of !# knights that sought the grail, only ) achie-ed it& The ?ound Table
$as ne-er the sa%e after only half of the knights returned and 1alahad and Perci-al
$ho% had achie-ed the grail died, after fulfilling their destinies& Arthur $as in great
sorro$ for the de0arted knights but $as none the less, -ery ha00y to see %any of his
knights return&
After the grail Auest, ;a%elot kne$ a fe$ %ore years of ha00iness& During this ti%e
ho$e-er, >auncelot/s and 1uini-ere/s lo-er gre$ stronger than e-er and 2ordred secretly
0lotted on re-olting against the king to beco%e king hi%self& Another sad e.a%0le of
Arthur not being the greatest knight in the $orld ca%e $hen Sir 9rre of Hungary ca%e to
Arthur/s court $ith $ounds that could only be healed by the greatest knight in the $orld&
Arthur $as the first to -olunteer to atte%0t to heal 9rre& Arthur kne$ that he $as not the
greatest knight in the $orld but had s%all ho0es that he 0ossibly $as& 4hen Arthur
failed, he sadly ad%itted, DIt is not I,D and $atched as all of the others knights failed as
$ell until finally >auncelot succeeded and $as declared the greatest knight in the $orld&
Arthur $anted to be %uch %ore than a king, he $anted to be the greatest knight that he
could be&
In a fe$ years to co%e, >auncelot/s and 1uini-ere/s lo-e $as finally disco-ered and thus
began the saddest %o%ent in Arthur/s life $hich e-entually unra-eled into the end of his
glorious kingdo%& It $as 2ordred and Agra-aine $ho disco-ered the affair and told
Arthur of it& Arthur $as silent in disbelief that such a thing could ha-e ha00ened&
>auncelot fled fro% Arthur/s kingdo% and Arthur faced the greatest decision in his life&
Arthur had to betray his lo-e for 1uini-ere in order to carry out @ustice and sa-e the
re0utation of his kingdo%& At the ad-ice of 2ordred, Arthur reluctantly sentenced
1uini-ere to be burned at the stake& 4ith >auncelot, %any other knights had left ;a%elot
and Arthur felt de-astated to see their loyalties to >auncelot be %ore -aluable than
loyalties to hi%self& +efore 1uini-ere $as to be burned, >auncelot and his knights led
siege on ;a%elot and freed the Aueen& In this struggle, >auncelot had accidentally slayed
t$o of Arthur/s ne0he$s, 1areth and 1aheris& This $as another tragedy and infuriated
1areth/s and 1aheris/s brother, 1a$aine $ho had once had a great lo-e for >auncelot&
1a$aine 0leaded for Arthur to %ake $ar against >auncelot and Arthur finally ga-e in to
his $ishes and led siege against >auncelot/s forces& This $as -ery hard for both Arthur
and >auncelot because both of the% still lo-ed each other dearly and did not $ant to
har% each other& In this battle, Arthur $as unhorsed and about to be slain until >auncelot
ordered for hi% to li-e and kindly returned Arthur to his horse& This kind gesture %ade
Arthur ha-e no desire to fight any%ore but 1a$aine 0ersisted to a-enge his brothers&
>auncelot and 1a$aine soon %et in single co%bat and Arthur $atched $ith tears in his
eyes as he sa$ the t$o %en that he lo-ed %ost in this $orld fight each other& T$ice,
>auncelot defeated 1a$aine and s0arred his life&
At this ti%e, 2ordred $as left in charge of +ritain and told the country that Arthur $as
dead in order to beco%e king hi%self& 2ordred also tried to $ed 1uini-ere& Soon, $ords
of this reached Arthur and thus began the final betrayal of Arthur/s life& 6n $ord of this,
Arthur and his forces returned i%%ediately to do battle against 2ordred/s forces& 4hen
Arthur reached +ritain, his forces $ere besieged by 2ordred and his traitorous knights&
The battle $as -ery hard and %any $ere killed& 2ordred/s forces e-entually retreated& In
the course of the battle, Arthur/s last and %ost loyal ne0he$, 1a$aine $as killed&
1a$aine 0leaded for >auncelot/s forgi-eness and s0ent his final hours $ith Arthur and
then died& Arthur grie-ed -igorously at this %o%ent& That night, 1a$aine/s ghost ca%e to
Arthur in a drea% and $arned Arthur not to fight 2ordred until >auncelot had returned
to hel0 Arthur& Arthur then set out to %ake a truce $ith 2ordred& 6n the %orning of this
day Arthur -isited his $ife 1uini-ere $ho had betrayed hi% $ho $as no$ li-ing as a nun
at a con-ent& Arthur did not co%e to her $ith $ords of anger and bitterness, but of lo-e
and forgi-eness& This is a -ery 0o$erful %o%ent and sho$s Arthur/s true nature& This is
also the final ti%e that Arthur and 1uini-ere are together& >ater on in the day, all of
2orded/s %en and all of Arthur/s %en $ere 0resent and ready to fight if e-en one s$ord
$as dra$n& ?ight $hen the truce $as to be signed, a -i0er bit one of the knights in the
foot and the knight dre$ his s$ord to kill it& At this %o%ent, e-ery knight dre$ their
s$ord and thus began the final battle& D6h dreadful %o%entS,D cried Arthur, DI no longer
ha-e any ha00iness left $ithin %e and all of $hich I once had is no$ lost&D The battle
raged on for hours and $as -ery fierce& 2any of Arthur/s greatest knights died on that
day& In the end, there $as only Arthur $ith his t$o knights +edi-ere and >uncan, and
2ordred& Arthur took a s0ear, deter%ined to finish $hat 2ordred had started& Arthur
stabbed the s0ear right through 2ordred but at the sa%e ti%e, 2ordred %ortally $ounded
Arthur $ith a stroke to the hel%& Kno$ing that he $as dying, Arthur asked +edi-ere and
>uncan to hel0 hi% u0& >uncan $ho hi%self $as se-erely $ounded fell do$n and died
once he atte%0ted to lift u0 Arthur& As a final reAuest, Arthur asked +edi-ere to take his
s$ord E.calibur and thro$ it into the lake& At first, +edi-ere could not bring hi%self to
thro$ the beautiful s$ord into the $ater& Arthur $as -ery u0set at this and ordered
+edi-ere to toss the s$ord into the lake& As +edi-ere tossed the s$ord, a hand reached u0
out of the $ater and took the s$ord& 4hen +edi-ere returned, a barge ca%e fro% the
$atery %ists of the lake $ith H Aueens, one of $hich $as Arthur/s sister, 2organ le <ay&
The $eak and dying Arthur $as 0laced in to the barge and told that he $ould be taken to
the %ystical island of A-alon to be healed and rest until one day he $as needed&
The barge $ith Arthur slo$ly glided into the %ist and disa00eared fore-er&
There are %any legends $hat ha00ened fro% there& So%e belie-e that Arthur died and
$as buried at 1lastonbury& Soon after Arthur 0assed a$ay, so did 1uini-ere and
>auncelot, and soon the entire kingdo% of Arthur& +ut the Arthurian drea% ne-er died& It
continues to li-e on in the hearts of %any $ho today drea% of being knights of the ?ound
Table& Arthur left this $orld $ith a -ery sad tone& Perha0s he thought that he had failed&
He did not fail, ho$e-er& Arthur $ill al$ays be re%e%bered as a great hero and one of
the greatest kings that this $orld has e-er kno$n& So%e e-en say that Arthur ne-er died&
There are legends that s0eak of Arthur slee0ing in A-alon until one day a hero $ill co%e
and a$aken hi% $hen he is needed& In so%e stories, Arthur has returned& In the brilliant
tele-ision 0rogra% D1argoyles,D Arthur has returned&
In D1argoylesD Arthur has a$akened and tra-els the $orld to seek @ustice& He has e-en
reclai%ed his s$ord E.calibur and chosen a gargoyle na%ed 1ry0h to be his first knight&
In this tale, there is no doubt that Arthur is once again the greatest knight in the $orld& As
long as the Arthurian drea% stays ali-e, there is al$ays ho0e for a better $orld&